60,000 step it up in American Cancer Society's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at Jones Beach
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In its 20th year, the 5-kilometer walk along the boardwalk at Field 5 sought to raise awareness and money to help find a cure for breast cancer, said Sylvia Diaz, the society's regional vice president in Suffolk.
"It's really about a celebration of survivorship and also really to honor those survivors in a big way -- to recognize that breast cancer is a really, really significant issue for Long Islanders," she said. "We certainly feel that we've made tremendous progress, but we still have a ways to go."
Volunteers also participated in similar Making Strides walks in each New York City borough Sunday, Diaz said.
The 5k walk raised $3.15 million for research and support services, said Kristen Grant, a Cancer Society spokeswoman.
Many walkers registered in advance to form teams and collect donations.
The group of about 150 contributors raised $3,500 via word of mouth and Facebook, she said.
"This is like an honor and a privilege to be here, that everyone came out for me," said a teary Thompson. "I never in a million years thought I had cancer and when you hear those words, it's horrifying. . . . And now I'm a survivor."
For Sondra Nussbaum, 45, of Roslyn, who underwent a double mastectomy and is a three-year survivor, the walk was also personal.
"I went through chemo, lost my hair, all while trying to keep it normal for my kids," said the mother of three, adding that she came to the walk to lend support for a cure.
"It needs to be better for the next generation," she said.
The walk took on both a celebratory and solemn spirit. An elevated stage showcased Zumba instructors, a child rock band and a DJ spinning contemporary songs. Several tents offered an opportunity to get pink hair extensions, information on breast cancer centers and bagels or coffee.
Some walkers high-fived survivors making their way down the boardwalk, and others shouted chants to end cancer.
Wearing a spray-painted T-shirt that read "Fight Like a Girl," Shinkassha Brown, 34, of Central Islip, said she walked to support her mother, Sandra Brown, 62, of Central Islip, for the sixth year.
"It's good to see all of the families that are here together, because they've united around someone who may have been sick or someone they may have loss," she said.
At a fence along the sand at the end of the boardwalk, many posted the names of people they were walking for, as well as photos of those who died from breast cancer.
For Sandra Brown, reaching that point was a celebratory moment.
"I just have to touch it," she said of the fence. "It's a feeling that comes over me when I get to that finish line that I made it another year."Marielle DaQuisto, 30, of Oceanside, embraced a friend in tears as she posted a sticker on behalf of her grandmother Ann Conte, who died from breast cancer at age 88.
"It's the most amazing and rewarding feeling to walk with survivors and current fighters," DaQuisto said.
"I can't get her back. But I can help fight for everybody else."